“The Three Rs,” Reading, (w)Riting, and (a)Rithmetic: Are we Moving Upstream or Downstream?

By: Nicole Abittan  |  August 29, 2021

By Nicole Abittan, Science and Technology editor

If a class of high school students were to be polled on whether reading, writing, and math “truly reflect what every student needs to thrive in the 21st century,” the question would certainly be met with a cacophony of opinions. The removal of reading, writing, and math from high school classrooms is becoming the reality for Oregon’s students, at least for the next three years. Recently, state lawmakers voted to approve a bill, signed by Oregon Governor Kate Brown, that is “dropping the requirement that high school students prove proficiency in reading, writing and math before graduation.” 

While “supporters of the bill insist that considering math and reading essential skills have been an unfair challenge for students who do not test well,” there are other solutions to assist those students. For instance, if exams were found to be the main source of difficulty, testing could include using notes, or completing a project that demonstrates ability. 

My uncertainties with this bill are twofold. First, this bill is hurting students who are proficient in or inclined toward math or English, and weaker in history or science. Throughout high school, my teachers often showed us the popular YouTube video by Prince Ea, “I Sued The School System.” In his video, Prince Ea articulates his concern for America’s students, comparing them to “fish swimming upstream in class, never finding their gifts, thinking they are stupid, believing they are useless.” By implementing this change in it’s high schools, Oregon is drastically increasing the number of “fish,” students who could excel in math and English, if given the opportunity. Second, Oregon high schools are sending the wrong message to their students by eliminating subjects that cause difficulty. Prince Ea questions America’s educational system’s effectiveness in preparing students for the workforce and for life. He maintains it is an injustice for students to be taught to equate challenges with being insurmountable. Oregon should be encouraging its students to face their obstacles, rather than eliminating them altogether. 

As a biology major, I’ve always had an appreciation for the sciences. Although science is not the subject being removed, it overlaps with math and English. I cannot envision entering STEM without having become proficient in “The Three Rs” in high school. While I understand that others have differing passions and interests from my own, reading, writing, and math are crucial to any field. I believe that people entering other professions, be it business, fashion, psychology, nutrition, etc. will need these skills. 

Although I have my hesitations, only time will tell if this bill proves to be beneficial for a majority of students. And for the time being, high school students who support this bill can always look into moving to Oregon for a couple of years.